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Power of the small

Alto, the value-packed people’s car, returns in a brand new avatar

In the 40 years since the start of operations, Maruti Suzuki has consistently put out successful cars appealing to the mass buyer and the high-end alike. The company packs a punch with the recent launches of the new Brezza, their entry SUV and a top selling model and their maiden entry into mid-size SUV, the Grand Vitara. Even as SUVs, large and compact are making a mark on the Indian markets, most first-time buyers still prefer the hatchback for affordable mobility. The Alto has had an iconic presence since its first entry into India two decades ago. In sheer numbers, with over 40 million cars sold, Alto has stayed the No. 1 selling car for 16 years. With 100 Altos sold every hour in the past 22 years, the hatchback is the 4th largest car in terms of volume. The completely new look, the Alto with modern features hit the markets recently.

We attended the media drive to experience the all-new Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 in Kochi with its blue lake and blue skies. The first impression of the new design is refreshing. Based on the same Heartect platform similar to the S Presso, the new Alto K10 bears no resemblance to its older versions; this model exhibits a brand-new, grounds-up design. The replacement of the 800cc engine gives the car a marginal growth in dimensions. The new car gets a much larger grille than before and a clamshell-type bonnet. The large hexagonal grille, sleek lights and subtly sculpted chin are prime focus points.

The new bumper and the strong creases in the back, paired with the mild sculpting and character lines along both sides add a sense of drama to the silhouette. There is no provision for fog lamps in the bumper. The headlamps, however, have been updated and are larger than the previous iterations. The new Alto K10 uses 13-inch steel rims with wheel covers that appear slightly smaller under the high window. The sporty and contemporary configuration makes it stand out while still appealing to its ideal buyer preference.

The interior design is a little more to the convention, with well-cushioned adequate seating arrangement in the front and back for two comfortably. This model has more headroom and legroom available for such a small car. The SmartPlay infotainment system gets Android Auto and Apple Play. The all-digital instrument cluster is akin to the S Presso with a speedometer, fuel gauge and some more warning lights that skip the need for other gauges. The steering wheel design is sportier than before and now has volume and phone controls, while the power window buttons have been moved to the dashboard and are convenient to operate. The dash is built better in place of a big slab like in the previous Alto, resulting in more knee room for the front passenger.

The few qualms include the fixed driver seat and steering with no adjustability, although it was not an issue for us while setting up during our drive. The rear passengers do not have power windows even on the higher-end model and can operate them only using the lever system. The outside rear window mirrors are manually adjustable. The rear windows lack the wash-wipe system and the auto-dimming internal rearview mirror, which would have been functional additions. The boot capacity, however, is sufficient for a weekend trip. The Alto's design allows for total usage of the limited space where one can fit in quite a bit of luggage by flipping down the single-piece rear seat. Equipment-wise, the Alto K10 carries all the essentials like power steering, gearshift indicator, remote central locking, body-colored bumpers and door handles, and intermittent wipers.

The Alto K10 is powered by a one-litre, three-cylinder, all-aluminium motor that is now the mainstay of Maruti’s entry-level range. The new engine is updated to meet the latest emission norms, including the stricter BS6 Phase 2 standards. The Alto K10 comes with two transmission options, a five-speed manual and a five-speed automated manual transmission. With a figure of 24.39kpl for the manual and 24.90kpl for the automatic, the Alto is one of the most fuel-efficient budget cars. While driving through the narrow crowded streets on a Sunday in Kochi, we were extremely satisfied with the small car's ability to navigate easily.

The Alto K10 is an affordable, stress-free and all-purpose car. Based on the changing preferences of young and aspirational first-time buyers, this value-packed offering in its new design and updated features is bound to attract more demand. With more than 11.5 lakh Indians indicating a leaning towards hatchbacks, Maruti Suzuki is hoping that the Alto K10 will be back on top of the sales charts.

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